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Culture Jamming Essay

Culture jamming is an example of a postmodern movement which generally aspires for change in culture but not on the legislation. This movement rather aims for recognition rather than redistribution such as the feminist and Black groups. Culture jamming is rather a postmodern politics of the youth activists who are motivated for anti-globalization movement which has become a part of youth-oriented forms of political movement.

Culture jamming tries to change the outlook of the people toward culture by examining the current culture and introducing new ideas (McKee 2005). The term “culture jamming” was coined by the Negativland, a San Francisco band, in 1984. This is also known as a ‘guerilla art’ or ‘citizens’ art’ which combines high-tech and low-tech interactive media (Hartley, Montogmery, Rennie, and Brennan 2002: 54).

Writer Mart Dery transformed culture jamming into a manifesto in his book Culture Jam listing down his seven insights about America ten years before the 21st century: (1) America is not a country but a multitrillion-dollar brand, (2) the culture in America is not created by its people, (3) a free and authentic life in America is no longer possible, (4) people have been branded, (5) Huxleyan “soma” is everywhere in the mass media, (6) American cool has become a pandemic, and (7) ‘cool-hunting American-style consumer’ is now no longer supported (Gray 2005: 125).

Playing with the corporate firms began such the Nike’s advertising campaign, for example, was jammed when its slogan “Just Do It” was attempted to change to “Just Stop It”; the logo of Apple was transformed into as skull while Shell’s name to $hell emphasizing the word ‘hell’. The Internet also has been used for the purposes of culture jamming when Internet hackers redirect users from the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Europe to subversive sites and join in ‘Buy Nothing Day’ to highlight overconsumption in their countries compared to the third world.

In Times Square, New York, Adbuster posted an image of American flag which appeared to be conventional stripes and stars but in closer look the stars were actually logos of IBM, Nike, Windows, Playboy, McDonalds, and other corporate firms to highlight that America is ruled by corporations. According from the founder of the Adbusters, Kalle Lasn, professors in communication tell their students the problems with the mass media however they do not discuss solutions how to solve those problems (Hartley et al. 2002).

Culture jamming is sometimes called ‘adbusting’ or ‘subvertising’ which uses tactics from almost all media such as video, digital photography, billboards, movies, songs, and radio in suing corporate intellectual property without permission or illegal. This subversive movement is participated by artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators, and entrepreneurs who challenge corporate intellectual property. Kalle Lasn has been using war metaphors such as ‘revolution’ and ‘guerilla warfare’ against the commercial advertisements and messages that influence the people’s mental landscape.

Through the Internet, cultural jammers have been continuously promoting and encouraging the consumers to appropriate the meanings of the capitalists’ advertisements and products that have been alienating consumers on the symbolic environment. Using the new technology of the Internet allows the cultural jammers for opportunities that the old media cannot offer such as appropriating the products of corporate speech and publishing their own interpretations. E-mails, for example, are combined with the Web-based multimedia productions to subvert meanings into a political perspective (Strangelove 2005).

The Internet has an incredible power to reach out for people, disseminate information worldwide, and encourage for a worldwide campaign; thus the perfect medium for culture jamming (McKee 2005: 173). Culture jamming is widely applied in movements against the globalization and big business capitalism such as the campaign “Billionaires for Bush” by Andrew Boyd, a New York publicist. The purpose of the campaign is to attract people to the fact that through massive campaign donations, corporations bought off politicians.

Boyd created a funny campaign using bumper stickers, buttons, posters, and a website to change how the American understood the political culture. By changing how people think rather than by engaging with the government through the traditional political methods, significant political changes can be achieved. This postmodern movement is certainly a political act and has been part of the youth politics such that by speaking in behalf of the other people is not just a mere use of words but rather acting for the others and the rest of the world.

People’s attitudes are included in different aspects of the society for economic and social orders, civil liberty, economic equity, and law and order (McKee 2005). Youths have been actively participating in culture jamming as a form of political movement that is rather intended for recognition though performance such as theatre and entertainment (McKee 2005). However, culture jamming might be viewed as ‘extreme use-initiation’ particularly by using advertisements to serve other purposes.

The early use of culture jamming was traced since the 1960s by the Situationists in Paris when the idea of detournement or using an image, message, or, a thing in another context different from the original. Nowadays, different technologies have been used in modifying advertisements by reproducing copying, and editing the images and colors. There are numerous groups of culture jammers in the world attempting to be heard generally through the Internet (Szmigin 2003). Through culture jamming movement, questions about the appropriateness and participants of cultural representations are raised.

People are given the opportunity to think for what is appropriate and not in living a meaningful life (Danesi 2007). Culture jamming is brings out the concealed aspects of politics and the hidden messages underneath the advertising euphemisms revealing that the boundary between the resistance and compliance is insecure and contradictory. Expressing resistance through billboards and slogans serve both purposes of reinforcing and challenging corporate styles (Amoore 2005). Bibliography Amoore, L. (2005) The Global Resistance Reader. Routledge. Danesi, M.

(2007) Why It Sell’ decoding the Meanings of Brand Names, Logos, Ads, and Other Advertising and Advertising Ploys. Rowman and Littlefield. Gray, C. H. (2005) Peace, War, and Computers. Routledge. Hartley, J. , Montgomery, M. , Rennie, E. & Brennan, M. (2002) Communication, Cultural and Media Studies: The Key Concepts. Routledge. Mckee, A. (2005) The Public Sphere: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. Stranglove, M. (2005) The Empire Mind: Digital Piracy and the Anti-capitalist Movement. University of Toronto Press. Szmigin, I. (2003) Understanding the Consumer: being and Buying in the New Century. SAGE.


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